Where Community Will Flourish

Thanks to the largest single donation in College history, Sarah Lawrence is making plans for the new Barbara Walters Campus Center

By Leslie Garisto Pfaff

Groundbreaking television journalist Barbara Walters has built a career on asking the right questions at the right time—a facility she attributes in large part to her Sarah Lawrence education. To honor her alma mater, Walters earlier this year made the largest single donation in the College’s 89-year history. Her $15 million gift will help create a new campus center embodying Sarah Lawrence’s commitment to what former Dean of the College Jerrilynn D. Dodds calls “the convergence of living and learning.”

“... a powerful magnet on campus, with gathering spaces large and small, 
in which community will flourish.” President Karen R. Lawrence

The Barbara Walters Campus Center will offer ample room where students and their teachers can extend their intellectual discourse beyond the classroom, serving as the hub of student life and the campus community. It will bring together the academic, creative, and social aspects of campus life, becoming, in the words of President Karen R. Lawrence, “a powerful magnet on campus, with gathering spaces large and small, in which community will flourish.”

Among those spaces will be an expansive venue for campus and public events; the College radio station; a media innovation lab; dining facilities; lounges; and areas for career services, student clubs, activities, and collaborative work. The center will house the Barbara Walters Archives, donated in 2014, consisting of video interviews, transcripts, photographs, and personal letters from many of its namesake’s noted subjects. And it will become the permanent home of the Barbara Walters Gallery, now located in the Heimbold Visual Arts Center and host to a wide range of changing exhibitions.

“I attribute 
my success, 
in many 
ways, to the curiosity and 
confidence I came away with from this remarkable college.” Barbara Walters

In recognition of Walters’ gift, Sarah Lawrence celebrated a special Barbara Walters Day on May 6, which featured a master class on “The Art of the Interview”. During a reception that followed, students presented Walters with a “thank-you” video tribute. In the video, Malcolm Knowles '15 said the new campus center will “create a sorely needed space for both education and entertainment.” Louise Crossan '18 called it “a brick in the foundation of our future.” Perhaps speaking for many of the students, Lindsey Guion '17 said, “This is not just a building. It’s a vote of confidence.”

President Lawrence says the new campus center “will stand as a tribute to Barbara Walters and her belief in the power of a Sarah Lawrence education.” Walters underscored that belief. “I attribute my success, in many ways, to the curiosity and confidence I came away with from this remarkable college.”